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Do Not Judge This Book By Its Covers,
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This review is from: The Complete McAuslan (Paperback)
Strange, although I am a hard core GMF fan, I was not tempted by his McAuslan trilogy until recently. For some reason, his publishers marketed it - foolishly - as farce: most editions, like this one, have cartoons on the cover that imply they are Tom Sharpe type satires. They are nothing of the sort. The tone is somewhere between GMF's "Flashman" and his superb war memoirs, "Quartered Safe Out Here". The eponymous McAuslan is the clown of the series, not the principal character. The protagonist is Lieutenant Dand McNeill - a thinly disguised GMF - and the stories are based on the author's own experiences as a young army officer just after the end of the Second World War. The key to appreciating the stories is remembering a fact that is mentioned very delicately but never overstressed: these characters are in a limbo after the end of hard war service, most of them awaiting demobilisation and most of them slightly amazed to have survived. Recently commissioned from the ranks after combat in Burma, McNeill himself has experienced many extraordinary things, but is still a young man with limited experience of ordinary life. These stories are not farces but the rites of passage of a boy who has resumed the process of growing up after a horrifying intermission. It is a poignant evocation of a lost youth, and of a lost time and place. As such, it succeeds brilliantly. It is not one of GMF's major works but even minor GMF is better than anything that has ever won the Booker.